Ever since Elizabeth finished JK it's been our tradition to transition between school and summer holidays with gymnastics camp. However, Starr Gymnastics decided not to offer a summer camp this year for the kids in the French school boards (which get out a week earlier than the English boards).
The alternatives were sparse and unappealing so we decided we'd go and visit the Hippo House (Auntie Mary) and the Cuckoo Place (Auntie Muriel).
I was planning to take the kids and drive, but I was struggling with nausea and extreme tiredness especially in the car so Brendan insisted we take the train. Turns out kids get a $15 fare in the summer and I managed to pick up a cheap seat for $34, so any doubts I had vanished pretty quickly after that.
Of course the day we were due to travel Matthew woke up with a fever, sore throat and "owie tummy" but he perked up enough to get on the train. He slept most of the trip; Amelia sadly did not even attempt to nap until we were pulling into the station (by which point it was really too late).
Muriel borrowed a car seat and picked us up from the train station, then we had dinner with Muriel, Lauren and Donna and family and Ryan and Rebecca. Matthew played a little, ate less and slept on the couch while Elizabeth and Amelia turned cartwheels and generally had a wonderful time with cousins.
The next day Mary came and picked us up and we drove to Wellesley. On Tuesday Elizabeth was very cranky in the morning having insisted on sleeping on two very deep memory foam mattresses and "not having gotten a wink of sleep". Mary took Matthew and Amelia to the toy store to pick anything they wanted (a glow-in-the-dark fidget spinner and "my baby"). Elizabeth was feeling better after a sleep so we went out for lunch and to take Elizabeth to the toy store (she got a glow-in-the-dark fidget spinner too). Then Mary drove us to London to visit Vera. The kids played and coloured and ate cookies while we played on a HUGE Scrabble board. There might have been quite a lot of redirection required to prevent my children from completely destroying Vera's apartment - I was horrified to discover Matthew colouring on the floor and Amelia did her best to break Vera's snow globe. Turned out Elizabeth had caught whatever Matthew had as she had a fever and passed out cold on the floor, so she was not part of the shenanigans.
On Wednesday it was Amelia's turn to be sick but we had planned to go to African Lion Safari to see Elizabeth's Elephants and forecast said it was our only chance this trip. Since the illness appeared to be a fever plus much sleeping I decided Amelia could sleep on me or in a stroller at the Safari as well as at Mary's (also the prospect of entertaining the other two quietly at Mary's seemed like way more work). So off we went and it was WONDERFUL! Amelia slept all the way there but fever disappeared while we were at the park. We went on the boat, we went on the safari train, we went on the bus and we played in the water park! There were lots of elephants. Elizabeth especially liked watching them go swimming. She would have liked to ride one but this is kind of controversial and I decided that maybe she should learn more about why before deciding if she still wants to do that. Besides we didn't really have time!
The water park was amazing - the kids definitely want to come back and spend more time there. If I were to do it again I'd bring a picnic lunch for everyone and not just me because we spent too much time in line waiting for food. Mary had heard that it wasn't a great idea to bring your car into the safari and we were glad we didn't after we saw the monkeys climbing all over the cars. They have been known to rip off wipers and side mirrors, in addition to leaving presents on the roof. The peacocks were quite aggressively pecking at a few cars as well. Matthew liked the giraffes the best.
We also visited with Uncle Roy and Aunt Esther, played in the local park and discovered that Ottawa Pokémon is much more competitive than in Southern Ontario. Probably the few local players were happy to see us leave!
John and Joanne, Carl and Judy, Jacob, Chris and Arlene all came for supper. Murray and Judy and Rob and Val dropped by to say hi as well. All too soon it was time to pack up the car and head back to Ottawa.
We stopped in Oshawa to stay in a hotel overnight (with a pool! with a robotic pancake maker!) Elizabeth declared it "the best hotel ever".
Isabelle (4!) and Theo (2!) had a joint birthday party with a rainbow lollipop and sunshine theme. There was rainbow fruit onna stick and lollipops the size of Amelia's head. Matthew is not a lollipop fan but I was surprised when he declined to take one.
There was much playing in the backyard. Isabelle requested a walking, barking puppy among other items on her list and we left it up to the kids to pick. Guess what they picked??? Possibly the fact that I desperately wanted such a thing when I was a kid and never received one may have influenced my agreement :)
Theo received a sprinkler to play in. The kids had trouble deciding whether to get a long sprinkler or a caterpillar that spat water but the one we picked looked like it would work well for lots of cousins at once AND it came with a downloadable app which was so ridiculous a concept that we had to choose it.
Auntie Karen made a gorgeous rainbow sun cake for Isabelle. Theo doesn't like cake but he does like Timbits. The result was Genius!
Matthew was excited to get his second stripe. I was just surprised. Already?
It was the last day of grade two! Elizabeth had a farewell assembly, followed by a trip to the library, followed by a picnic in the local park! I came to help supervise the picnic park and brought Matthew and Amelia along.
Elizabeth was sad to say goodbye to her fabulous teacher Mme Nimo, but we were happy to find out that she's been named vice-principal at the "little school" where Matthew is going next year. (The little school is part of Elizabeth's school, but the kindergarten students are in a separate building from the grade 1-6s a few blocks away) "Matthew is super lucky", said Elizabeth.
The picnic was at a splash park, but Elizabeth didn't get wet because most of her friends had neglected to bring bathing suits and she didn't want them to feel bad. So we went to another splash pad to play after school :)
There are a lot of cats in our neighbourhood, so when we first installed our sandbox we decided we needed some kind of way to keep them from using it as a litter box.
I made vertical curtains to keep the cats out, which worked extremely well for quite a few years. But then, being outside, the fabric started to wear out.
We have this one neighbour down the street who irritatingly allows his dog off leash all the time. Checkers likes to visit all of the backyards and we've had our run-ins with this neighbour because we don't enjoy cleaning up the presents left behind, I don't enjoy nearly running over the dog when it darts behind my car unexpectedly while I'm backing out of the driveway, and the dog has occasionally been aggressive towards the kids (once knocking Elizabeth off her bike). The relationship has been improving though as he's made a small effort to keep the dog out of our yard and also to help the kids make friends with the dog.
In any case, on this particular day in the spring last year Checkers was running loose (again) and his dog friend Molly from across the street was chasing him. And the dogs ran right through the now-flimsy curtain in the sandbox. The neighbours did offer to replace it but I figured it had needed replacement anyway so I turned them down. And then didn't replace the curtain. We actually got away with this for quite a number of months, but eventually a cat started to poop in the sandbox and we stopped letting the kids play in it and I decided I really ought to make curtains. Daddy was convinced the culprit was "our" cat and we even stopped giving it food treats, which some of us were sad about.
Anyway, one thing led to another, and winter came and I thought well, maybe it's silly to put curtains up right before winter. So that particular chore got put off. And put off some more. And the cat kept pooping in the sandbox, and I kept getting more and more creative with putting bits of wood and netting over the sand to keep the cat out and spent much quality time sifting the frozen sand etc until it finally snowed and that seemed to stop the cat.
Then spring came, and I hoped the cat would not come back. But it did. So I buckled down and made the curtains. By the time I did it was June and I was pregnant and therefore banned from dealing with litterboxes so Daddy had to take over the cleanup duties. He sifted out all the cat poop and he bleached the sand and combed it flat and we were pretty happy to think we'd finally have the sandbox back in use...
The very next morning we noticed that the sand had been disturbed AGAIN. Despite the curtains. I looked at the footprints left in the sand and realized I had been fighting against a racoon (not a cat!).
So Daddy built us a very sturdy wooden cover and then he sifted and bleached the sand again. And now we have a sandbox again.